Proton has gone bonkers. On 30th March 2010, Proton launched a RM115,000 Proton Satria Neo called the R3 Lotus Racing Edition based on the Satria Neo CPS that is selling in Malaysia for RM60,000 at the very most. This edition celebrates Proton's involvement with Lotus Racing and is on sale in Malaysia and is limited to only 25 units. The car boasts a spec sheet that is impressive as over the top (really, really expensive) performance parts are utilized where possible.
This very expensive Proton will come with the R3 (Proton’s in-house tuners) body kit, lightweight carbon fiber bonnet and FRP front fenders. Lightweight R3 Custom alloy wheels (made by Advanti of Taiwan) that reduce the unsprung weight of the car. The light weight parts contribute a approximately 60kg weight loss making the car weigh around 1090kgs. That is quite light for a full sized hatchback nowadays.
For stoppers, a 4-pot AP Racing Brake Kit is installed up front with the stock single pot calipers at the rear - really expensive stoppers, Brembos could be cheaper. R3 specified Öhlins Coil-Overs Dampers with Öhlins DFV (Dual Flow Valve) technology with right height and damping adjustability are the chosen shocks -the Rolls Royce of shocks, especially in price. The engine has been tweaked to produce 145bhp and 168Nm; up from 125bhp and 150Nm of the stock 1.6 CPS engine. R3 Titanium Exhaust Headers, R3 Alloy Underdrive Pulleys, an R3 Tuned Exhaust System, an R3 Carbon Fiber Airbox and different camshafts contribute towards the power upgrade.
So what are my comments about this? Does paying homage to Lotus make it worth paying double the price of a standard Satria Neo CPS or are Proton totally bonkers? Actually, when the old Satria R3 came out some years ago I commented in a Malaysian tuning forum, much to the chagrin of the R3 boys who surprisingly came on and tried to defend their creation (quite brave I may say so) that they had spent the entire budget on the seats instead of real performance parts. The older car didn’t have coil overs, didn’t have a carbon bonnet, didn’t have re-profiled camshafts, didn’t have lightweight pulleys or intake systems. It had really expensive seats, the RECARO SR4 which cost RM8,000 a pair and a spot welded chassis. The thing was, the R3 Satria GTi was selling for RM78,000 when the standard one was going for RM63,000. So if R3 had spent RM8,000 for seats, there was so little dough left for other performance parts. I also mentioned that R3 could have gotten a discount for the seats, but knowing that this was Proton, it wouldn’t be much. So they had made a limited run car with expensive seats and better handling but insignificant power gains. Your rear end felt good in those seats and that’s all you basically got for RM78,000. And some handling of course. Now, they’ve basically binned the RECAROs for normal seats and threw in a lot of goodies. Looks like I was quite right in the end but they should have put some proper sports seats as the seats are set too high in the Satria Neo.
So this edition does not have Recaros, but ultra expensive Ohlins and AP Racing? This is overkill. And it shows in the price. Of course Proton would say that the high price is justified by the limited number of units are the economics of scale; too little units to bring the price down. But couldn’t they use slightly cheaper aftermarket brands like, say TEIN for shocks or work with KAYABA for something good yet sensible for a cheap hatchback, not a Group N Lancer Evolution works rally car? It’s like a scruffy tabby cat using a jeweled platinum collar. Not a Persian. Yes, we’ve seen crazy stuff done by tuners, but by a manufacturer that produces cheap and occasionally cheery cars that are bought by people on a budget?
A friend of mine gave me this example while we discussed this tabby cat with a jeweled platinum collar; you buy a Subaru Impreza 1.5R with 109bhp for S$70,000. Subaru comes out with a S$130,000 1.5R STI version that has 134bhp. For that money, Subaru has a turbocharged Impreza STI that has a different engine and around 300bhp. No one would be crazy enough to buy a Impreza 1.5R with 20bhp more at double the price. In simple terms, you are willing to buy a S$70,000 Satria Neo with slightly more power for the same price as a Volkswagen GTI.
Yes, the parts in the car are fabulous items which I would love to have in a car, but the price is outrageous. If I pay close to 100% more than the price of a stock car I sure as hell expect something more than 'LOTUS HANDLING', I also expect epic engine performance too. By 'epic' I mean at least 60-70bhp an increase over stock. Proton still defies logic to this day and age and so do their buyers as it seems that 11 of the 25 are spoken for. I have no idea whether these 11 people are plain lucky to be the first buyers of a RM115,000 Proton Satria Neo or just plain bonkers.
The only advice I can give them is to park their cars in a secure, well lit area as there will be a lot of normal Satria Neos out there yearning for those OHLINS and AP Racings but aren’t willing to pay for them. Try parking this Satria in a seedy part of Johor Bahru or Kuala Lumpur and see what happens. Imagine that, a Proton that’s even harder to take care of than a Ferrari 430.